Revs face “Yankees of the Atlantic League”

The problems with the York Revolution in the Atlantic League’s first half were so evident that even opposing players could see what was wrong.

“They were without an identity the first half,” Somerset third baseman Brandon Larson (pictured) said last week. “They were out there just to play and now they’re having fun playing with each other. We ran into them recently and they’re a whole different, energetic ballclub … They’re playing with a purpose right now.”

Larson’s astute observation summed up the Revs’ second half — new players, new energy, newfound success. York sewed up the first playoff berth in the franchise’s two-year history last week by winning the Freedom Division second-half title. Now the Revs will play host to their first playoff game Tuesday at Sovereign Bank Stadium.

Somerset, the Freedom Division first-half champion, will take on the Revs at 7:07 p.m. in the first game of the best-of-three Freedom Division Series.

And when the teams pile into their respective dugouts, the two sides will share almost nothing in common. The Patriots have all the history on their side. A league-record three titles. Six trips to the championship series in six postseason appearances. A .518 all-time winning percentage in a league where sustaining success is nearly impossible.

Meanwhile, York is the newcomer to the show. The Revs are simply out to play the role of the upstart Tampa Bay Rays — they want to prove they can conquer the club many refer to as the New York Yankees of the Atlantic League.

“One thing you know with the Somerset Patriots’ organization is that they’re very tough to beat in the postseason,” said Adam Gladstone (pictured), the Revolution’s director of baseball operations. Gladstone also served in the same role for the Patriots from 2003 to 2005, winning two championships.

“They build a very tight-knit clubhouse and they have 25 guys who genuinely like each other. Typically, teams like that are tough to beat.”

Somerset captured its spot in the postseason via a dramatic win on the final day of the first half over Newark. After that exciting finish, the Patriots struggled to find a groove. They finished the second half 34-36 — only the sixth time in the Patriots’ 10-year history that they finished below .500 for a half.

But Somerset has figured things out lately. The Patriots won nine of their last 11 to close out the regular season.

“I think we have a pretty veteran team and they had a team meeting the other day and kind of talked to each other and everyone said what they had to say,” said Somerset pitching coach Brett Jodie (pictured), who also serves as the club’s director of player procurement. “It’s hard to turn on a switch. But I think we’ve tried to turn it on (lately).”

York — a league-best 41-29 in the second half — hasn’t had to worry about turning on a switch. The Revs won four of five in a series with rival Lancaster to close out the second half and York has come out on top in 11 of its last 15 games.

That streak allowed Revolution manager Chris Hoiles the luxury of setting up his playoff starting rotation. Aaron Rakers (11-8, 4.52) will go in Game 1, Rolando Viera (3-2, 2.98) will start in Game 2 and Corey Thurman (11-9, 5.39) is slated for Game 3 (if necessary).

That trio’s main task will be shutting down Larson and likely Atlantic League Player of the Year Josh Pressley (pictured). Larson hit .304 with 95 RBIs this year while Pressley won the league batting title (.354) while knocking in 101. Both men also clubbed 30 homers — a new Patriots’ single-season record.

“They’re in the league lead in all the offensive categories,” Hoiles said. “You can’t pitch around either one of them, they both hit the ball out of the ballpark and they hit for a high average. They are definitely somebody you have to pay attention to each and every time they come up.”

But regardless of how talented each team is, everyone involved in this series knows it could very well be a crapshoot.

“In a best-of-three, anybody can win it,” Somerset manager Sparky Lyle said. “You throw three pitchers out there that have three quality starts and you have a chance of walking away with a spot in the championship game.

“That’s the only thing that concerns me right now. Who’s going to have the best pitcher out there in Game 1? They’re both going to be pretty equal, but who’s going to pitch the best game?”

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